Chapter 19 – Hidden Mysteries
2 Hours Later
“Shit, I can’t believe this… this is hella stupid.”
Pierce glared down at the scene before him from his perch atop one of the hills on the northern Bay Area peninsula. Stretching out across the mouth of the bay was the dam, still in the same state that he recalled seeing it in when he investigated it a week and a half ago. The fence line still stood exactly where he remembered, as well — but the guards surrounding it now had their attention directed inward toward the dam, as a large aircraft of some kind hovered over the dam over a kilometer off of the coast. It didn’t appear to be much larger than Brikén’s small courier craft, so Pierce didn’t think that it was an attack ship. However, it possessed the same angular, slate blue and black aesthetic of the Cruiser that he had seen over New York, and every thirty seconds or so it would dump a robot out of a hatch on its underside onto the dam. There was no doubt in his mind that the ship and the robots were owned by SERRCom’s new nemesis, EA.
But to think that SERRCom is having this much trouble with just a few fucking robots… Pierce turned his attention back toward the guards surrounding the dam; none of them were making any attempts to approach or even fire on the robots. There didn’t appear to be any SERRCom craft in the skies, either, despite having over two hours to respond to this new threat. There’s no way SERRCom can be THIS incompetent. What the hell is going on, here? Does this have something to do with whatever they’re hiding in the dam? …Well whatever it is, if those guards can’t do their own jobs, then I suppose the Speed Demon will just have to do it for them!
He took a moment to adjust his balaclava, which he had brought with him in preparation for an event like this — though since his last outing, he had additionally acquired a cheap demon mask to wear over the black balaclava. With a mask like this, I should definitely be able to spread around the ‘Speed Demon’ name. It looks less thuggish than wearing the balaclava on its own, at least—! His thoughts were interrupted as a second small craft appeared in the skies to his left, as though it had faded into existence. The new craft had the exact same appearance as the one hovering over the dam, except this one was careening across the sky, zooming past Pierce and over the hills toward the city of San Francisco — where several specks appeared to drop out of its bottomside as it continued flying over the bay. From a distance, Pierce couldn’t tell exactly what those specks were, but if the first hovering craft was any indication…
Is this EA guy dumping robots over the whole damn bay?! Pierce whipped around and launched himself away from the dam, toward where he had seen the craft drop something over San Francisco. Or is this supposed to be a distraction of some kind? Damn it, whatever this is, dealing with it could take a while… if I’m not fast, then I could miss my date with Andra. Still, I refuse to allow EA to stomp all over my hometown and hurt innocent people. And I’m not going to wait for SERRCom to stop twiddling their damn thumbs, either — I’d definitely be late to our date that way! Well, looks like it’s time for the Speed Demon to take things into his own hands!
With that, he landed in the southern part of San Francisco — right in the midst of three large robots as they stomped around and upended passing vehicles. Each robot stood nearly a full head taller than Pierce and possessed a humanoid frame; bulky, angular, slate blue armor; no head; and a glowing blue orb in the upper center of their chest. Just below the orb on all three robots was an emblem of a blue ring, with four crossbars — two vertical, two horizontal — interwoven through the ring and each other. All in all, the robots appeared almost exactly like the robots Pierce had seen on the news last month, further cementing EA as the instigator of these new attacks.
But Pierce wasted no further time analyzing the robots. In the blink of an eye, he smashed his foot down onto one of the robot’s arms. The robot nearly buckled under the blow, but the area that Pierce had smashed his foot into glowed brightly, as though it were protected by a field of energy. Energy shields. Go fucking figure! Pierce scowled as he momentarily backed away from the robot, and then smirked. Well, at least these assholes don’t seem to be able to fly. That should make this a walk in the park!
Immediately, he dodged to the left to avoid a robot behind him as it brought its arms down overhead. He then appeared behind it and slammed his foot into its backside as it was leaning over, sending it stumbling forward as the shields on its back lit up brilliantly. Pierce then lunged forward and swept his leg through the robot’s in an attempt to knock it off its feet with the force generated from his sheer speed, but his leg sweep was interrupted as one of the other robots charged into him and threw him to the ground. It then attempted to stomp on him, but he rolled out of the way just before it could — and then shot his legs out to impact the robot’s leg as it was still hovering over the ground, successfully knocking it off-balance. Pierce jumped to his feet as the robot toppled over and then sped to its side, where he threw a dozen kicks in the span of a second; one more fierce kick caused a visual cascade of static across the robot’s chest, indicating that its shields had been overloaded. A single kick after that put Pierce’s foot clean through the robot’s armor, exposing its internal machinery.
“Well that was easy—!” Pierce remarked with a smirk, but was interrupted when one of the other robots whipped out a gun and fired on him. An instant later, a bullet impacted his side and sent him sprawling in a painful heap, though he managed to jump back to his feet and successfully dodge a second shot. He prepared to begin attacking the robot, but just before he launched himself forward, he noticed the robot with the punctured armor struggling back to a standing position. I guess these things are hardier than I thought. His gaze momentarily lingered on the gun that had fired on him. …But I have an idea. Let’s end this, quick!
A split second later, Pierce was no longer standing still — just in time to evade all three robots firing on him with their guns. An instant later, he appeared beside the robot with the ruined armor and slammed his foot into its elbow joint, completely obliterating the joint and allowing its gun to fall to the ground. Pierce immediately stooped over to grab the gun and then shoved it into the hole in the robot’s armor, at which point he shredded the robot’s interior machinery with the contents of the gun’s magazine. A second later, the robot collapsed to the ground, now a mere heap of scrap of metal.
But Pierce didn’t stop to admire his handiwork; instead he lunged forward to evade more weapons fire and then chucked the weapon in his hand at one of the other robots, successfully hitting it in its chest orb. As the robot reeled back from the blow — its glowing energy shield momentarily masking the orb in its chest — Pierce threw his entire body forward, using his superspeed to turn himself into a massive projectile that slammed into the robot’s chest and knocked it onto its back. Now standing on top of the robot, he repeatedly slammed his heel down on its orb like a jackhammer. The repeated supersonic blows created a consistent glow from the energy shields that attempted to protect the robot, but before long the pure force from Pierce’s speed overloaded the shields and allowed him to smash his foot straight through the robot’s chest orb and all of the internals behind it. Instantly, the robot ceased moving.
Now filled with confidence after having destroyed two of the robots, Pierce turned on the third and quickly took it down in a similar manner — resulting in three slate blue wrecks laying in the middle of the street.
Those chest orbs must be optical sensors, he mused as he stared down at the dead robots. And it looks like, if you attack the sensor, then the shield that protects it produces a glow that makes the sensor momentarily useless. Seems like a design flaw… though I’m pretty sure shields just inherently work that way, so I’m not sure how you’d work around it. Now that I think about it, that’s probably a problem for powered armor, too, isn’t it…
“What— what just happened?”
Pierce looked up from the robot wreckage to see that a crowd was beginning to form, with several people glancing uneasily between the dead robots and the masked man who had defeated them.
“You’re… you’re a Chaotic, aren’t you?”
“That I am!” Pierce proudly proclaimed, turning to face the man who had just addressed him.
“What’s going on here? Is this another attack?” The man looked down at the robots, and then back up at Pierce. “Are you with SERRCom…?”
“With SERRCom? Ha!” Pierce loudly scoffed. “I work on my own. In fact, I’m here to mop up the problems that SERRCom is too slow to manage. So when you remember this day, know that it wasn’t SERRCom who stopped these stupid robots—” He threw out a casual salute. “—It was the Speed Demon!”
Then, without waiting for a response, Pierce spun around on his heel and leaped high into the air, crossing a significant chunk of the city in a single bound and coming to a stop atop a skyscraper. He turned and peered across the bay; a light fog prevented him from seeing as far south as San José, and of the sky that he could see, the second EA craft was no where to be seen. Damn… He turned his attention to the parts of the bay that he could see, his hidden face slowly collapsing into an impatient frown. I was too busy fighting those three robots to see if any more were dropped elsewhere. He glanced to the west, toward the dam in the distance, before turning his attention southward and leaping down to the streets below. Looks like clearing the dam will have to wait — making sure there are no more robots in the bay is more important. Hopefully, if SERRCom really isn’t incompetent, then they’ll be able to take care of the dam while I clear out the bay… but I guess we’ll have to see. For now… He blasted forward, rushing down the San Francisco peninsula at just under Mach 1 as he carefully inspected every area for rampaging robots. …It’s time to obliterate some ‘bots!
* * *
Several Hours Later
Damn… that took long enough…
Pierce zipped across the rooftops of the south bay peninsula on a trajectory back toward the dam. He had just now finished zig-zagging his way across the bay, seeking out and destroying any robots he could find — by his count, he had dispatched nearly two dozen of them. None of the robots had posed any more of a threat than the first three he had taken down, but finding them had proved to be a surprising pain. His superspeed still had limits, after all, and he couldn’t be everywhere at once — not to mention that, even if he was moving at Mach 3, searching the entire Bay Area was a monumental task.
But as the afternoon stretched on and the sun approached the horizon, Pierce was able to root out several robots and then reasonably confirm that there were no others. Now he aimed to see if SERRCom had recovered the dam, and if they hadn’t, he hoped to reclaim it himself before the sun had fully set.
Mere moments later, he landed with a roll at the back of the parking lot that he had once used to spy on the dam a week and a half ago. The sight that met him didn’t instill in him much confidence: guards still stood all along the fence line, with many of them staring toward the dam, as opposed to the area outside it. Seriously? Have they still not gotten rid of the robots? What the hell are they even doing? This seems like the perfect situation for the Eximius Vir to take care of, but even they aren’t around anywhere… hmph. Earth’s ‘heroes’ my ass. Time to show everyone how a real hero can handle things—!
“What?!” Pierce jumped back and reflexively crouched into a defensive stance as he rapidly swept his gaze across the parking lot — only to see no one in his immediate vicinity. “…The hell?” He relaxed slightly, though continued to cautiously scan his surroundings. I could’ve sworn I heard a voice…
“Pierce! It’s me!”
He snapped his gaze to his left. Still, he saw no one, but he had definitely heard a voice — and it sounded familiar. “…Conrad?” Pierce tentatively called out.
“Took you long enough,” came the response; now that Pierce knew he wasn’t hearing things, he could tell that the voice was coming from just a couple feet to his left. “How’d you manage to forget what I look like?”
“Dude, I can’t see you,” Pierce countered impatiently.
“…Oh. Right.” A moment later, Conrad faded into view and casually nodded toward Pierce. “You can see me now, right?”
“Yeah…” Pierce nodded back. He then glanced toward the fence line and the guards before turning back to Conrad. “What are you doing here?”
“I feel like I should be asking that,” Conrad replied as he slowly turned invisible once more. “Though I guess the answer is obvious enough, with, uh… with how you’re dressed.”
“Huh—? Oh.” Pierce momentarily reached up to touch his demon mask; he had grown so focused on the robot attack over the past several hours that he had nearly forgotten he was wearing it. “…What about it?”
“Eh.” Pierce couldn’t see Conrad, but from the tone of his voice alone, Pierce could tell he was shrugging. “Phoenix told me to make sure you weren’t getting into trouble.”
“That meddling—! Of course she did.” Pierce scowled, though his expression was hidden behind his mask. “She thinks she can predict my actions that easily, huh?”
“I mean… she did, though.”
“Hmph! And how did you know to find me here, huh? Was that her doing, too?”
“I just guessed. I heard about some guy running around town, calling himself the ‘Speed Demon’ and destroying robots, but you were too fast for me to catch you in town. So I just came here instead. I thought you’d probably try to clear out the dam after taking care of the city.”
“So, what, you think you can predict what I do, too?”
“Uh… I mean, I did, so…”
“Hmph…” Pierce turned his attention toward the fence line. “…Don’t tell me you’re going to try and stop me.”
“I don’t suppose you’d stop if I just asked you to.”
“I figured as much.” An audible sigh originated from Conrad’s approximate position. “Well, I tried. I can at least tell Phoenix that much.”
“Not even going to try and fight me?”
“C’mon, dude. I saw what was left of those two robots near Berkeley, I don’t stand a chance in a fight. All I can do is turn invisible and mute sounds.”
“You can mute sounds, too…? That’s perfect!” Pierce snapped his fingers and whipped around to face Conrad’s position again. “With my speed, and your invisibility, sneaking past those guards and annihilating the robots on the dam will be a cinch!”
“Uh… what? Didn’t I just tell you I don’t stand a chance in a fight?”
“Just think about it, dude. At least in my case, I know that if I hold on to someone, then they gain a similar level of resistance to rapid acceleration as me. So, if you touch someone, then you should be able to make them just as invisible as you.”
“So if you hop on my back, you can make us both invisible, and I can blast us on over to the dam with no one around us being any the wiser!”
“I dunno, man… I only came here to check on you. Not to get into fights…”
“Oh c’mon. It’ll be fine! I’ve gotten into plenty of fights over the past month, and I’m fine!”
“That’s not the part I’m worried about. I’d just rather go home and take a nap… I already missed my mid-afternoon one because of everything going on.”
“You… I shouldn’t be surprised.” Pierce shook his head in disbelief. “C’mon, dude. You don’t even have to do any actual fighting, just stick with me long enough to find the robots and then go hide in a corner somewhere.”
“If you don’t, then I’ll tell Phoenix you didn’t even try to stop me.”
“I don’t think that’ll go the way you think it’ll go…”
“For fuck’s sake…” Pierce lunged forward and began waving his arm around in an effort to locate Conrad. Within a split second, his arm came into contact with something invisible; Pierce then made a quick guesstimation as to where Conrad’s legs and torso were, at which point he moved to scoop his friend up into his arms — and then promptly became invisible himself.
“What the—!” Conrad yelped. “Hey! What the hell, dude?!”
“Just shut up. You’ll thank me later.”
Conrad’s exclamation was cut short as Pierce launched himself into the air, easily clearing the guards and the fence line and then landing atop the dam. He dashed forward another couple hundred meters before rapidly coming to a stop and dumping Conrad onto the ground, at which point the speedster became visible again.
“Fuck, you’re heavy…” Pierce muttered, taking a moment to massage his biceps.
“I’m not heavy, I’m average weight,” Conrad countered, while still invisible. “You’re the weak one, here.”
“I’m not weak. Just, average-ly strong.”
“How’d you even manage to destroy a bunch of robots like that?”
“Striking power is a lot different from carry strength. With my superspeed, I have a lot of striking power… but my carry strength is the same as usual.” Pierce took a deep breath and rolled his shoulders before turning north to look over the rest of the dam. “Now c’mon. We have some robots to take care of.”
“‘We’?” Conrad echoed incredulously, though as Pierce began jogging northward, he could hear the footsteps of his friend keeping pace.
“Hey, you’re free to turn around and go back if you want,” Pierce shot back. “But if you really don’t want a cool story about fighting a bunch of killer robots, well…”
“Shut up. You’re the only one who cares about that,” Conrad retorted, though remained at Pierce’s side all the same. Eventually, he sighed. “I guess someone should be around to make sure you don’t get your ass kicked…”
“Funny, Phoenix said the same thing back on Ainminthalus — and I ended up being the one to save her.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m sure. Let’s just get this over with.”
“Ha! Well luckily for you, it seems like we’ll be done sooner, rather than later!” Pierce pointed forward, where a handful of robots could be seen in the distance. “You ready for a fight?”
“Would you even take ‘no’ for an answer—?” Conrad started, but Pierce cut him off as he picked him up again, causing the both of them to go invisible. He then launched himself into a supersonic dash, crossing several hundred meters in the blink of an eye and landing in the middle of a group of six robots — none of which seemed to recognize his presence.
With a smirk, Pierce carefully set Conrad down, ensuring that he maintained contact the entire time so as to maintain his invisibility. Then, he took a deep, quiet breath… and catapulted himself into the nearest robot. He slammed into the mechanical humanoid in nearly the same instant as he became visible, catching it completely off-guard and launching it off the side of the dam. Didn’t even see me coming! Pierce mused as he watched the robot fall into the waters below. Ha HA! I should practice this move with Conrad some more—!
Pierce immediately threw himself to his left just in time to dodge out of the arms of a lunging robot. He then used the momentum from his lunge to spin around on his heel and slam his foot into the robot’s back, sending it stumbling forward — but before he could launch a follow-up attack, the other robots opened fire on him, slamming him with a handful of projectiles that knocked him across the top of the dam. Momentarily disoriented, he rolled to a painful stop before jumping back to his feet just in time to evade another volley. But just before he lunged back into the fight, he noticed that two of the robots had stepped back and opened up sets of wings — not unlike the winged robot he had briefly fought near New York. In fact, the two robots appeared to be distinctly different from the others around them, in that they possessed more lithe frames as well as black optical sensors instead of blue ones.
Damn it, flying robots—! With a scowl, Pierce blasted off toward the two robots in an effort to take them down before they could flee to the skies. In a split second, his foot slammed into the optical sensor of one of the robots, causing its energy shielding to flare up and sending it reeling back. He then jumped over it and whipped around to launch a kick at its wings; while the robot’s energy shielding protected the wings from direct damage, the force of Pierce’s kick was still enough to interrupt the wing’s movement and keep the robot grounded. Two more kicks sent the robot to its knees, but Pierce was then forced to back off in order to dodge gunfire from the three non-winged robots.
Irritated, he momentarily switched his attention back to the three robots and lunged toward them. He hit one at Mach 2, and then used it as a springboard to launch himself at another, and then kicked off of that one to slam into the third — all in under a second. The force of his blows sent all three robots stumbling back, giving him an opening to return to attacking the winged robots — though as he did so, he realized that the one he hadn’t yet attacked had already taken to the air. Immediately, he launched himself into the air toward the robot and managed to cling to its arm; the robot promptly began attempting to shake him off as he tried to jackhammer-kick its legs, resulting in an awkward scramble of limbs mid-air. A second later, in the midst of the scramble, Pierce realized that they were descending — and rapidly. A brief glance downward revealed the rapidly approaching bay waters, so Pierce immediately abandoned his attack on the robot and kicked off of it to launch himself back onto the top of the dam. Was that thing about to try and drown me? The hell? I guess these robots are more adaptable than I expected—!
In the middle of his thoughts, he was snatched out of the air by the second winged robot. It grabbed him by his ankles and began ascending, leaving Pierce to try and wrench his legs free while upside-down. However he couldn’t get the leverage for a kick with his ankles held as they were, so he tried the next best thing that came to mind: supersonic punches. The shielding around the robot’s legs soon flared up under his blows, prompting the robot to jerk its knee up and smash him in the face, momentarily stunning him — and then it simply chucked him groundward. He managed to twist himself around in the air so as to land feet-first atop the dam, at which point he turned to glare up at the two winged robots. They both hovered in the air, seeming to stare back at him… and then they both turned around and zoomed off to the west, where they disappeared into the setting sun.
“Damn it, they got away!” Pierce scowled and stomped the ground in frustration, accidentally denting the top of the dam in the process. His scowl merely deepened at the sight of the damage; in an attempt to alleviate his frustration, he whipped around and blasted off toward the non-winged robots that remained. It wasn’t long before he had turned them all into piles of scrap metal, just as he had the rest of the robots earlier in the day.
“Stupid robots…” he muttered as he kicked at one of the four wrecks that now laid before him.
“Some of them got away, huh…”
Pierce glanced toward the origin of Conrad’s voice, though the man himself remained invisible. “Still here?” he questioned, deadpan.
“Didn’t really have much chance to leave,” Conrad replied. “That fight was over almost as soon as it started.”
“Ha! You got that right. Still…” Pierce turned his attention toward the sun just as it began to dip below the horizon. “…Those fucking flying robots… I can’t catch them.”
“Eh, that’s just how it goes, sometimes.” While invisible, it was obvious from his tone that Conrad was shrugging. “You win some, you lose some. No use worrying about it.”
“Hmph.” Pierce glanced in the direction Conrad’s voice was coming from, and scowled when he realized he couldn’t quite pinpoint his friend’s location. “…How long are you going to stay invisible? There isn’t even anyone around.”
“Hey, you don’t know that,” Conrad replied. “Who knows if SERRCom has ways of watching us. I don’t want to get caught trespassing on property belonging to an interstellar military if I can help it.”
“Is that your own self-preservation talking? Or is it just because Phoenix told you to?”
“Both. But mostly the former.”
“Hmph…” Pierce snorted as he turned away and approached one of the robot wrecks. He kicked at it idly before leaning down to grab it and begin dragging it toward the edge of the dam.
“What are you doing?”
“Getting rid of the mess, obviously,” Pierce retorted. “SERRCom might be content to sit around while their enemies make a mess for others, but I have more decency than that.”
“If you say so…”
“I do say so. Now are you going to help me, or what? This shit’s hella heavy.”
“If I touch it, it’ll just turn invisible…”
“What, you can’t control that? Really?”
“Hey, I’ve only had the power for a little over a month…”
“Same here, but at least I—!” Pierce cut himself off as an odd shiver crashed over his body, followed by a slight churning in his gut. What the—? It feels like I’m being watched. Is there someone nearby—?
“Hey! Who are you? What happened here?”
Instantly, Pierce snapped his attention toward the north — where he found three individuals approaching him atop the dam. All three possessed tanned skin and dark hair, with the exception of the woman on the left, who had blond hair tied back in a pony tail and partially covered by a red bandanna. All three were wearing some kind of armor, as well — the woman on the left and another woman on the right both wore blue, green, and silver armor over green uniforms, while the man in the middle possessed a set of ornate full-body armor covered in crimson, gold, and black geometric designs, and swathed with elaborate robing. Pierce’s expression rapidly collapsed into a scowl; he didn’t quite recognize the armors, but he did recognize the blond woman, and the man in the center whose hair was long in front, but short in back.
These were the members of the famed Eximius Vir.
Figures that they would be sent here. But why now?! Pierce’s thoughts raced through his head at a far faster pace than a normal person’s. Alright. I can run, but what about Conrad? Can they tell that he’s here? Probably not; it looks like they’re focused on me. That means if I run, they should chase me, and Conrad will be free to leave. And if they DO chase me, they’ll never catch me! Ha ha! Alright, let’s go!!
Pierce spun on his heel and launched himself through the air to the south, sailing over the dam at a supersonic pace — but just before he touched back down to the ground, he spotted a fighter jet appear in the air below him, with a mechanical arm extending out of it that held onto the armored man. The hell?! Pierce’s eyes widened in disbelief, but before he could react further the man had grabbed him out of the air, followed by a second mechanical arm extending out of the fighter’s underside to grab hold of Pierce. The fighter then flew in a half loop back toward the center of the dam, at which point it released Pierce and the armored man to tumble through the air.
“Argh—!” Pierce grunted as he hit the ground in an unceremonious roll. The hell was that? They managed to catch up to me? How?! These fuckers…! He took a moment to make sure that his mask was still attached to his face — if the Eximius Vir had a way of matching his speed, then now more than ever was the time to ensure that his identify remained a secret. Once he was certain that the mask was intact, he jumped to his feet and rapidly inspected his surroundings. To the north was now a massive barricade, in front of which stood dozens of mystery objects and the blond woman with the red bandanna. And to his south was the armored man, standing in front of a fierce lightning storm that covered the full width of the dam. They’re trying to block off my escape… smart. They haven’t completely boxed me in, though, so I can still get out of here — the only question is if Conrad managed to get out of here, first. I have no idea where he is, but it’ll be way harder for him to escape than me… so I guess I should stall these guys for a bit to help him out. Maybe I can figure out what took them so damn long to respond to this attack.
Pierce glanced toward the armored man; if he recalled correctly, the man’s name was Mote. Kind of a stupid name, isn’t it? Mine is way better than his.
“You should first know that we speak on behalf of SERRCom,” Mote continued, his arms crossed in front of him. “Evading us counts as evading the highest law in the Earthian Territories!”
“Oh fuck off,” Pierce retorted. “That isn’t even close to true. Everyone knows that SERRCom shouldn’t have authority on Earth iself.”
“You’re trespassing on SERRCom property, dumbass,” the blond woman snapped back.
“And we found you disposing of criminal evidence, as well,” Mote added.
“Are you— are you serious?” Pierce stared at Mote incredulously. “I’m just cleaning up after myself. It’s common decency, you know.”
“This isn’t your place to clean up,” Mote replied, his tone filled with thinly-veiled irritation.
“Like hell it isn’t!” Pierce shot back, “I live here, dude, and it’s because of your stupid dam that these robots were marching all over the Bay! You had hours to deal with it — it was all over the damn news, but you didn’t even show up until now. So much for being Earth’s ‘heroes’, huh? I’ve done a way better job of it than you.”
Mote didn’t respond immediately, though his expression collapsed into a scowl. They don’t even have a response for that? Pierce mused with irritation, shit, aren’t these guys supposed to be the best of the best, or something? And even they don’t have a proper answer for why they took so long to get here! Fucking SERRCom…
“When did you discover your abilities?” Mote eventually questioned, “are you a friend of Austin Travis?”
He changed the topic. Of course he did. Hmph. Pierce shook the thoughts from his head as he replied, “who’s Austin? …Wait, do you mean that dude who’s evil twin blew up Dallas, or some shit? And who you arrested for no damn reason?”
“I’d think blowing up a city is a fantastic reason for arresting someone!” the blond woman countered.
“Even so, he didn’t ‘blow up Dallas.’ The damage from that battle was confined to a single neighborhood,” Mote corrected. “And the arrest occurred before then, but was still justified.”
“Yeah, because SERRCom can’t help but abduct regular people when it’s in their best interests, right?” Pierce retorted.
“It isn’t just our best interest. Leaving untrained Chaotics on the streets is a massive liability.”
“Ha! Yeah fucking right. And you wonder why I decided to run the moment you showed up.”
“Mote…” A head suddenly appeared on the barricade, matching the appearance of the second woman who had first shown up with the group. “I think you’re getting distracted here…”
What the?! Pierce stared up at her incredulously. That’s hella weird! Is that… some kind of shapeshifting? Is that where the fighter jet from earlier came from?
“I’d say I’m perfectly on topic,” Mote responded sharply, bringing Pierce’s attention back to the discussion at hand. “We’ve just discovered evidence that there are more Earthian Chaotics. On top of that, he might be the ‘unknown force’ mentioned in the earlier reports. This is immensely pertinent to SERRCom’s operations.”
“But it’s not what I came here for, damn it!” The blond woman crossed her arms and stomped the ground impatiently. “I heard there was a fight, I came here for a fucking fight! And then we get here and this fucking stupid-looking dumbass already did our jobs!”
“Keep a lid on it! You chose to come on this mission, don’t complain when it doesn’t go your way!”
“Holy shit,” Pierce remarked, “is this really what passes for ‘heroes’ in SERRCom?”
“Tch…” Mote glared at Pierce before pointing up at the head on the barricade. “Apprehend him. I’m sure the Director can get him to be more cooperative.”
“Like hell I’m going with you guys,” Pierce countered as he spun on his heel. Damn, these guys are a real piece of work! Anyways, that’s enough stalling. Let’s get out of here! He crouched down and then lunged forward, prepared to launch himself off of the dam and over the waters of the bay — if he angled himself just right, he should be able to land on the shore along the peninsula. However, instead of sailing through the air, as with every other time he had gone for a leap, he found that his body felt somewhat heavier than usual — or rather, more sluggish — as he stumbled forward, tripped, and fell to the ground. What the? What the hell? Pierce quickly jumped back to his feet, but in so doing, he sent his head spinning. It was as though his thoughts were moving faster than his body, which itself was now trapped in a pool of invisible molasses, unable to move or react nearly as fast as he wanted it to. Where’d my speed go? What’s happening—?!
Before he could react any further, he felt something grab him by the back of his shirt. Almost immediately, he found himself yanked into the air, his head spinning from disorientation as the sudden acceleration numbed his limbs. The sound of shouting reached his ears, but he couldn’t make heads nor tails of what was actually being said — all he could tell was that he was being carried through the now dusk-lit skies over the bay waters to the east. As the flight path stabilized, Pierce was able to slowly crane his neck upwards and get a look at what was carrying him, only to find a lithe, winged robot with slate blue armor and a black optical sensor. Oh for fuck’s sake! The flying robots from earlier?! Just my damn luck!
The crackling of nearby thunder and the sound of bullets screaming past him drew Pierce’s attention to behind him, where he could barely make out the form of the second winged robot as it exchanged blows with a third silhouette. In the rapidly darkening evening skies, Pierce couldn’t quite tell who or what the third silhouette was — until, mere moments later, it managed to disengage with the other robot and come flying toward him, a giant, ornate battlehammer in hand. Is that Mote? How is he flying—?
A split second later he felt himself thrust forward, the sudden motion sending his head spinning once again. He briefly locked eyes with Mote as the latter stopped his hammer mid-swing and backed away, but then Pierce found himself sailing through the air, to be caught by the other robot and dragged off in a different direction.
Now thoroughly disoriented, Pierce was barely able to discern what was happening to him, or around him — which only added to his mounting frustration that he couldn’t process what was going on fast enough to react to any of it. It was as though his superspeed had abandoned him, leaving him as just a normal human being carried through the skies. He could hear the sounds of thunder, and of cackling electricity; he could hear laser and gunfire; he could even hear vague shouts on the wind, but he couldn’t tell from what direction any of it was coming, or how far away it was. All he could feel was a multitude of sudden direction changes that put more physical stress on him than any roller coaster or vehicle ride that he had ever experienced in his life — and then, suddenly, he was just falling.
What the hell is even going on?! He glared at his surroundings, which were covered in the darkness of dusk, and therefore incredibly difficult to see. Whatever was below him appeared to be nothing more than an endless sea of blackness, though he could at least make out a variety of city lights to his left, right, and in front of him. …Shit, I’m falling over the bay waters, aren’t I? And I can’t even tell how far up I am! Fuck me, this sucks!
A moment later, the sound of approaching thrusters reached his ears, followed by something grabbing his arms. Pierce reflexively made to kick at whatever it was, but just before he did, he realized that it was Mote. …Hmph. Well at least he’s good for something. Hey, wait a minute… He glanced down, just in time to see the reflection of the light from Mote’s thrusters on the waters below rapidly grow in size before stopping. …That must’ve been a high-speed stop, but I didn’t feel it this time. That means my powers are back! But why did they go away in the first place?
“Mote! Here they come!”
The sound of a woman’s voice — one of the voices he had heard back on top of the dam, in fact — momentarily reached Pierce’s ears, prompting him to look upward, where he saw two hovering silhouettes against the dusky skies. Damn, are those the flying robots? They’re still intact? …Ha! Looks like even the Eximius Vir have a hard time with flying robots. Fucking useless wannabes—
Barely two seconds later, a blinding flash of light interrupted Pierce’s thoughts, causing him to reflexively close his eyes — and then, an instant later, a deafening crack of thunder rocked his body and sent him reeling. Holy fuck, what was that? Did we just get hit by lightning, or something?!
An intense ringing continued to dominate his hearing for several more seconds, and his sight took almost as long to recover. By the time he could actually sense his environment again, he found that he was currently being held in Mote’s arms — just as he slammed into the muddy bay shores, sending the both of them tumbling across the ground. Pierce reflexively winced, more out of shock than pain, and then paused for a moment to catch his breath. Now that his world was still, and he was laying on solid ground, his mind began to process the whirlwind of events that had just occurred. “Fucking hell…” he muttered as he slowly pulled himself to his feet, “what the hell just happened…?”
“I just saved you, that’s what happened.”
Pierce glanced to his side toward Mote, who was now sitting up as he stared back at Pierce. “…Hmph. I could’ve saved myself,” Pierce retorted.
Pierce glanced beside Mote, where there now stood one of the women he had seen back on the dam. I guess she’s Danielle, then? Her shapeshifting powers would explain a lot. But still… “Look, don’t you assholes get all high-and-mighty on me. The only reason you saved me is because you could use your powers while I couldn’t. …Now that I think about it, how does that even work? That’s hella unfair.”
“What? No, I wasn’t…” Danielle looked over at Mote before turning back to face Pierce with what looked like a confused expression. “I was just curious…”
“There are lots of things that I’m curious about, as well,” Mote stated as he climbed back to his feet. “And now that the distraction is out of the way, how about we get back to our previous conversation?”
“Oh fuck you, dude,” Pierce retorted with a scowl. “I’m outta here!”
Then, without waiting for a response, he turned on his heel and launched himself eastward. The moment he reached the city proper, he ducked into an alleyway and spent several seconds dashing only through alleys and side streets in an effort to throw off any tracking attempts. Once he was reasonably certain that the Eximius Vir weren’t following him, he jumped up to the building tops and began leaping across the city as he usually did, progressing northward along the east bay and eventually coming to a stop atop a tall building in Oakland. There, he dropped back onto his bottom and took a deep breath — now that he was out of danger, he was free to try and calm himself.
As he rested, he noticed that he could feel the cool evening breeze directly against his eyes, nose, and mouth. In a panic, he reached up toward his face, only to find that his demon mask was gone; only his balaclava covered his face now. Aw, damn it. I must’ve lost it in the chaos of that fight. At least the balaclava’s still there, so Mote didn’t see my face. But, damn. What a shitshow that was. He turned his attention to the west, where he could see a vague silhouette of the dam in the distance. At least the robots were taken care of… I’m pretty sure. I think that lightning blast that blinded me took out the flying ones, at least. And I managed to get the Speed Demon name out earlier today, so SOMETHING good has come of today, I suppose.
Pierce slowly pulled himself back to his feet and prepared to leap to the west. Alright, I should probably make sure Conrad’s okay. No idea how I’ll find him with that invisibility of his, but I should try anyways. A moment later he launched himself through the air on a rapid approach to the northern part of the peninsula. I’m not too keen on running back to LA when it’s this dark out, though. Maybe I can crash at Conrad’s place. He certainly owes me for drawing the Eximius Vir away, but— aw, shit, if I do that, I’ll miss my night with Andra! …Fuck, it’s already past when I was supposed to meet up with her, anyways. Damn EA and his robots. Well, last thing I want to deal with after today is someone being mad at me for being late, so I guess I’ll stay in the bay and tell her an emergency happened. Which, well, it did. Damn… and I was looking forward to a good lay after a while, too. I hope Andra will be down for rescheduling… He landed on the eastern shore of the bay and began running north to the nearest bridge before using it to cross over the dark waters. …Ah, whatever. Let’s just get Conrad and get the hell back to his apartment.